Tuesday, December 15, 1998
by Hazel Rose for the Sun

When Colonel Don Berry commissioned Ross Neale to secure the memorabilia of the area's militia, he made a wise choice. The proposed museum would include artifacts from the 12th Manitoba Dragoons, the 26th Field Regiment, RCA, and others from private donations.

Ross came from a military background, his father serving in the First World War and himself in World War II. After being discharged in 1945, he worked for MTS, but maintained his interest in the military by serving in the militia at various points in Manitoba.

On obeying the call from his superior in 1979, Ross took stock of the colossal task ahead. All the Dragoon artifacts were already in storage at the Brandon Armouries -- he only needed to transfer them to the top story of the building, the proposed site.

But then the reality of the situation struck him. You just can't be a bonafide curator, at the drop of a hat. You must learn, learn, learn.

Learn what? Learn how to categorize, how to display to the best advantage, how to control the lighting, how to restore photos, how to mend paper as well as fabrics and how to preserve clothing. Then there was cataloguing, paper work and fund raising.

But Ross seemed to keep his cool under all these pressures. He always managed to find exceptional help, when it was most needed. Money to support such an extensive enterprise, came in the forms of grants from both provincial and federal governments. But a highlight  of each year is Vimy Night, a one day fund raiser held in April on the date closest to the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge.

Ross' motivation for remaining on the job is two-fold. It's important to keep history alive for the younger generation, and tours of the museum gives them a solid view as to the service rendered by so many in time of war. Secondly, being a curator has been a labour of love for Ross. In his words, "if you believe something is worth preserving, you work at it as long as health remains!"

Submitted by Seniors for Seniors Writers Circle

Ross Neale has been one of the dedicated workers
behind the Brandon Armouries Museum,
located in the Armouries Building on Victoria Avenue.



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